Representative Don Beyer, Democrat of Virginia, plans to reintroduce The Fair Representation Act, which would, if enacted, put into place many of the reforms Drutman supports. Beyer wrote on his website that the measure
would move U.S. House elections into multi-member districts drawn by independent redistricting commissions and elected through ranked choice voting. The multi-member districts would be effective in states apportioned six or more seats in the House, and would elect three to five Representatives each, depending on the size of the state. Taken together, these three measures would incentivize congressional candidates to appeal to a broader range of voters.
Drutman has received both support and criticism from specialists in elections.
Gretchen Helmke, a political scientist at the University of Rochester, wrote that Bright Line Watch — a group of political scientists that conducts surveys of experts and the general public — found that there was
quite strong support among political scientists for the proposal to repeal the 1967 law mandating single member districts for the House so that states have the option to use multi-member districts on the condition that they adopt a nonwinner-take-all election model. Of the more than 500 expert respondents, 73 percent either moderately or strongly supported the proposal.
Helmke noted that
My own view has been really shaped by Lee Drutman’s excellent work on this. I agree with the general critique of the median voter theorem, which has been misinterpreted to mean that two parties automatically converge toward the middle of the ideological spectrum. Obviously, we can see that this hasn’t been true for American politics for several decades.
Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, praises Drutman — “the real expert on this right now” — and noted that “if it were possible, I do think such a shift would decrease polarization because it would eliminate the zero-sum nature of American politics.”
In addition, Mason pointed out that
It shouldn’t be overlooked that a PR system would also inevitably create some version of an explicitly white nationalist party. The big question is how many members of the current G.O.P. would join/vote for that party?
Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth, wrote in reply to my inquiry: “I’m convinced by Lee Drutman’s argument in his Two Party Doom Loop book that we should move in this direction.”
Pippa Norris, a political scientist at Harvard who examined different levels of dissatisfaction in democratic countries in “Is Western Democracy Backsliding?” finds evidence supportive of Drutman’s argument:
Parliamentary democracies with PR elections and stable multiparty coalition governments, typical of the Nordic region, generate a broader consensus about welfare policies addressing inequality, exclusion, and social justice, and this avoids the adversarial winner-take-all divisive politics and social inequality more characteristic of majoritarian systems.
Jennifer McCoy, a political scientist at Georgia State University, proposed a set of reforms similar, but not identical, to those of Drutman and Beyer:
I would prefer ranked-choice voting with some multi-member districts for state and national legislatures, and proportional representation (by state popular vote, not by Congressional district which are already gerrymandered) for the Electoral College.” These, she wrote, “could all be accomplished with just legislative change, no constitutional amendments.
Along similar lines, Jennifer Victor, a political scientist at George Mason University, emailed to say that she doubts proportional representation could be enacted in this country, but
There are a number of reforms being talked about among activists, reformers, political scientists, and other ‘thought leaders’ that are both feasible and would move the US toward a system that approximates a PR system.
Victor shares the view that Congress could repeal the law mandating single winner-take-all congressional districts to allow larger, multi-member districts coupled with
ranked choice voting and expanding the size of the House. These reforms can be accomplished locally, or by changes in federal law and would fundamentally change the way Congress works — in ways that are both good and bad, but where the positives outweigh the negatives.
Victor also acknowledges that such a system would allow “the most extreme anti-democratic forces now present in U.S. politics to be institutionalized.” But, she continued, “that faction has always been there, even when we pretended it was gone. At least under a multiparty system it would be contained and perhaps minimized.”
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